Pedal Power Road Race Report

By Jonathan Fowles.

The Pedal Power road race took place on Saturday near West Calder in Scotland. Whilst cruising to the start line and chatting to a few Ribble riders, it turned out that the course had been adapted from last year and was now 6 laps of a rolling circuit, with fast exposed sections and a headwind uphill drag to the finish line.

This year I’ve seen too many races where the break escapes early on, never to be seen again, and this time I was determined to be in it! My plans were put on hold when in the first few km a crash ahead of me sprayed bodies all over the road; I managed to negotiate the debris and followed another rider to get back to the peloton. Two riders were out front, and using the momentum from chasing back into the group I moved to the front and then attacked.

At this stage my legs didn’t feel so good, I had a gap on the peloton but my progress towards the two up front was slow. A Metaltek-Kuota rider came past me on his way to the two ahead, and I used a small ramp to close the gap onto his wheel and eventually make it across to the leaders. We now had a group of 4, and got in a line (TTT style) and hit the pace as hard as we could.

Towards the end of the first lap our break had grown to seven riders, consisting of two Ribble riders (John Archibald and Will Brown), two Dooley’s cycles riders, the Metaltek-Kuota rider and one rider from The Racers. We had about a minute advantage to the peloton, and settled down to work together and open out the gap as much as we could.

’d like to say that the race was action packed, but for the next 4 laps we just carried on working together and keeping our gap to those behind at just over a minute. The updates from the motorbike were telling us that 12 riders were chasing, but by the start of the fifth lap three had attacked from this and our gap extended so we knew that the race had effectively self destructed behind.

Our pace was hard, and combined with the rolling and windy nature of the course the break was showing signs of tiring. One of the Dooley’s riders had been sitting on, and eventually got shelled out the rear. I found I had an advantage on the draggy uphill stretch to the finish line so I tried to ramp up the pace here just to tire the break out a bit further. Although, I wasn’t so keen when some of the bigger lads started hitting the pace on the downhills!

Towards the end of the fifth lap, John attacked on a fast downhill section. He was the biggest threat in this group and I knew I had to follow his moves! I managed to get across to him, and offered a wheel to stay away from the others, but they closed back in on us. It wasn’t going to be good if our group started attacking each other this far from the finish, and we risked the chasers catching us.

The little attacks continued until we reached the drag to the finish line, I got to the front and ramped up the pace. Turning around, I had John on my wheel and just two others behind him. We reached the top, and knew that we had to work together for as much of the final lap as possible.

We made it to the last few km and John started putting in attacks on the fast downhill sections and out of corners. Each time I would have to push hard to get back on his wheel, and these attacks meant we were now down to three riders as we approached the 1km to go sign.

I attacked with just under 1km to go, and initially opened a gap, but glancing back could see the other rider coming over to me. I eased off the pace, and as he tried to pass me, jumped back on his wheel. I then sprinted past him in the final 50m to take the win!!

Credit: Neil Macdougall Cycling

I’m super pleased to get a win, and hopefully the legs will carry on working for the rest of the season!

Credit to Neil Macdougall for the photo above. If you’d like to check out the full album, click here.

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Posted in Blogs, Results and Reports

The Tour of Witheridge Moor – A piece of cake*

Words by John MacKellar

After no more than 38 minutes of racing the whole peloton had been pulled in to a lay-by like my maths teacher had done to us years ago. As in both scenarios we were all there for a bollocking and the guilty ones new exactly who they were, on this occasion it was nothing to do with me.

I had done the Tour of Witheridge Moor last year with reasonable success. The course is long at 43 km, three left hand bends forming a triangle and one sizeable climb that takes you out of Tiverton and on to Witheridge Moor and the rest is either up or down. The race is organised by Exeter Wheelers, who are very active in the area, so it’s almost guaranteed to be a good day. Last year it had rained overnight and it was greasy on the descents but this year it was going to be baking hot.

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When collecting my race number I saw Ali Stubbs (Royal Navy), last years winner, pulling his bike out of the car. I’d seen his name on the sheet again and as nice a lad he is, I was hoping that he wouldn’t turn up. 

We were just rolling out the village and I heard someone say “Alright John.” It was Phil Blundell (High Peak Cycles) who’d dragged his mate along for a rolling course. Definitely not how I’d describe the 1,300m of climbing packed in to an 80km course.

We negotiated the dodgy corners on the first two descents which took a pair of riders down last year and we hit the first climb. Up there, testing everyone’s legs was Ali. We rolled over the top of the course and the descent into Tiverton was a dead straight drop at 80 kmh. From Tiverton the road climbs out of town for 8km and the pace was just starting to pick up when we got ushered into the lay-by.

The reason we had been pulled over and the race stopped was because too many riders were riding on the wrong side of the road and causing a danger. The chief commissaire, ultimately, is the person who is responsible for the safety of all 60 of us and riding dangerously, isn’t clever, it’s just a bike race. Barking at us like my old maths teacher seemed to have the desired result and the racing resumed.

*I say, a piece of cake because up until now the pace had been tolerable for pretty much everyone in the race. The race had not exploded like last year. My legs felt good and I felt strong on the climbs. This ease and the good sensations would be put to an end.

On the final section of the course not much happened, I just made sure that I was right on the front on the descent so that if it all kicked off, I’d be well-placed to jump on any moves.

We had allowed one lone escapee out of the bunch and he had been off the front for at least 10km. The Pontypool rider was just in sight and he still had an advantage as we went over the finish line and started our second and final lap. But when he got to the feed zone in Witheridge Village, he made a meal of picking up a bottle and came to a complete stand still. However, he still managed to leave Witheridge with a handful of seconds advantage.

We came through the feed zone and loads of riders were picking up a 2nd or 3rd bottle and there was a couple of attacks from riders that were self-sufficient. It stretched us out and brought us almost within touching distance of the race leader. Not quite, as 2 cars had joined in our race and were stuck between the leader and us. The cars were unable to pass the race leader and were preventing the peloton from catching him.

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Coming through the feed zone.  One of the many OTE gels consumed. 

We went down the first of the dodgy descents and the cars were still in our race, but the commissaries managed to get rid of them at the top of the next rise. Clear road just in time for the second biggest climb of the course.

I was watching the strong lads but I was a bit further back than I’d have liked to have been. Three nearly got away here this time last year. Ali was off the front and a few were chasing with him I was out the saddle, passing riders, moving up. We caught and passed the escapee. It wasn’t the move but we had reduced the bunch and the strongest had moved towards the front.

The easy race that had been the first lap was over. I was now among the first few wheels as we started climbing out of Tiverton for the final time. A long climb. Each time the road steepened someone would up the pace. At 1km from the top of the climb, Ali went again!. But this time he went hard. I was on his wheel, we rounded the corner and the road kicked up again. “Shit!” I thought. I tried to hold Ali’s wheel, but I was slipping back. It looked like David Kovacs (Team KTM) attacked over the top. This was the split! We reached the top of the climb. A group of 10 was slipping away!

On the flat part at the top, 3 of us carried on chasing hard. Kovacs was back in the group ahead. We hit the descent even harder and just latched on to the lead bunch as we rolled in to Rackenford village. There was about 20km still to go and that effort had put me in the red, my legs were on fire.

Then we took the left hander and headed up the back straight of the course. It was 10km from that turn to the finish. Some riders were rolling through, but others were sitting on trying to save their legs for the finish.

With 5 km to go Andrew Whittemore (Exeter Wheelers) attacked and everyone just looked around, no one wanted to chase. We all looked at each other, no one wanting to undertake the task of neutralising this dangerous move, the gap grew.

We took the final left hand hander, and I was near the front of the group. After this, two descents and the steep kicker up to the finish.  The Wheelers rider was maintaining his gap and nobody was chasing. I knew the final descent was on a good surface and could be ridden without touching the brakes. So I went first, full aero tuck and reached the bottom of the kicker at the front. Then the sprinting began. Maybe I had a bit more left in the legs then at Oakenclough, but not much. The sprinters passed and I rolled in 8th – the same place as last year.

Considering the battle to get in to that last group and how destroyed I felt, I was pleased with that result and the few points that came with it. Moreover, I was buzzing about the racing that had taken place on that final lap.

Thanks to all the organisers and marshals from Exeter Wheelers who put on an excellent event on a fantastic course. Well done to Andrew Whittemore for the solo win.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1751398407

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Alan Goddard Memorial Road Race

By Kris Zentek.

You only needed to look at the headlines to understand why I wanted to stay in bed this morning…

Telegraph: “Danger to life warning as intense storms halt Britain’s heatwave”
BBC: “Storms sweep in as temperatures cool”
Express: “Heat to spark EXPLOSIVE  rain and lightning in 48 hour storm DOWNPOUR”

But…it’s hard enough these days to get into any race, so up I get at 6am, and set off for Shropshire. Ellerdine, to be specific, an hours drive away. Todays race is the cat 2/3/4 Alan Goddard Memorial Road Race, on a course that wouldn’t look out of place in Belgium. 6 laps of an 11 mile triangle two sides being wide A roads. If there was ever a race designed for apocalyptic weather conditions, this was it.

Instead of warming up, I decide to sit in the car and watch the rain run down the windscreen. When guilt gets the better of me, I rub winter embrocation on my legs. The next best thing to warmed up muscles, is cold muscles covered by burning skin. Just remember to do your chamois cream *before*, and not *after*.

Kit and attire…I have my commuter with me. No fricken’ chance am I riding my best bike after I spent 2 hours cleaning and polishing it yesterday. I am also wearing my Bioracer Tempest kit – waterproof and thermal – perfect for what was coming.

The commissaires…keen not to get too wet…choose the very last minute to hold the briefing. Everyone is hiding in cars or under trees, and as the whistle gets blown everyone rushes to the pre-race talk…which is uttered at record speed. To paraphrase: “weathers sh*t, don’t be naughty, go go go!”

It was always going to be a fast race, but as we hit the main road I find myself at the back with Steve Fidler talking about his seat-post that keeps inexplicably dropping. It’s still neutralized I think, but within 100 yards we find ourselves 5 bike lengths off the back, pushing 1000w to try and get back on. We manage it, and decide that that counts as a proper warmup.

My tactic is to sit RIGHT at the back, RIGHT out of trouble. It’s hard to see what’s going on up front, but we feel the elastic effect alright. Pottering along nicely, and then without any prior warning you are smashing out 12w/kg just to stay on the wheel. We lose a rider here and there…

Lap 2, still at the back. Into the headwind back straight, Steve Fidler selects the biggest gear he has and attacks from the back. By the time he passes the front of the bunch he’s hit 88mph and disappears up the road. I refuse to move, thinking it will get brought back – knowing full well that if it does, I’m not moving from the back of the bunch anyway.

A lap later and there is still no sign. I find out that he’s a minute up the road with two others, and the front of the bunch are attacking each other trying to get across. This kind of explains why I’m still having to do a sprint effort every couple of minutes.

Into lap 5. The break is still a minute up the road, and the guys leading the chase are starting to get pissed off with the attacking and negative racing. It’s stopped raining now, and I no longer fear the storm of death. I start to move up a bit. We get onto the headwind back straight, and as the latest attack and chase-down is done, I make my move.

I don’t make a song and dance about it – no out-of-the-saddle-throwing-the-bike-everywhere-screaming-DEATH-OR-GLORY! – just in the saddle, turning the screw. The front let me go, and I push a bit harder. I see there is someone already up ahead – I just need to get to him ASAP. I look behind expecting to see a long line of confused expressions looking back at me, but instead I see one other person, and an increasing amount of fresh air in-between.

I do a bit more, and as I flick my elbow, this chap who I don’t know comes past me like a bat out of hell. Another sprint effort is required, and a sit there swinging off his wheel. Expecting him to explode at any minute I move out, but he keeps going. This guy is strong! We catch the lone escapee up the road, Chris Humphries. We fly past him, he jumps on, and we start to work together to catch the break.

We look back, and the bunch are just a few seconds behind, and they look stretched out. We can see riders are trying to jump across, and this could be bad for us…

We get to the turn, and the bunch are still right on our heels, but we have kept a gap. We are probably half way between them and the three up front. We manage to make contact with them just as we hit the finish area for the last lap. The bell rings furiously, the bunch still right behind us. We can see that the breakaway are feeling the effects of staying away for 3 laps, but we all know what we need to do to make this stick. We get to work, and are soon ticking through.

Every time I look behind, the bunch seem to be getting closer and closer. At one point, they must have been 50 yards behind us, but we kept going as hard as we could. We hit the roundabout into the headwind, still with a gap. A few more all-out efforts from each of us, and the gap increases. And keep increasing. We’ve managed to snap the elastic, and we hit the turn for the last 2 miles.

The bunch are probably 15 seconds behind us, and covering the entire road. That can mean they have either sat up, or are all attacking. We keep going, and start to believe we can make it. I am at the front, as is my usual luck, thinking we are further out than we really are. I’m really suffering at this point and I can’t sprint for toffee. But given that my plan was to sit at the back and stay out of trouble, I feel happy about getting across to the break and coming away with some points.

We round a corner and we see the finish line. As I realise this, the sprint starts from a LONG way out. Dave Rowlands, the guy who attacked with me, takes the win from Steve Fidler by half a wheel. Next rolls in the rest of the early breakaway, Grant Bingham and Danny Smith. I manage to outsprint Chris Humphries for 5th (if you can even call it a sprint). We have timing chips on the bikes, and as I am writing this, I can see that the bunch were 18 seconds behind Chris.

Final results

  1. David Rowlands
  2. Steven Fidler – 3C Payment sports
  3. Grant Bigham – Velo Runner
  4. Danny Smith – RST/Cycle Division Racing Team
  5. Kristian Zentek – Team Chronomaster
  6. Christopher Humphries – St Helens CRC
  7. Jordan Hill – Leek CC
  8. Nick Morris – Clee Cycles
  9. George Mills-Keeling – Pro Vision Race Team
  10. Ryan Morley – Royal Air Force CA
  11. Jamie Crump – Successcycling.co.uk
  12. William Manfield-Yorke – Cycle Team OnForm
  13. Josh Williams – Clee Cycles
  14. Chris Pook – Rhino Velo Race Team
  15. Daniel Morris – HA&CC

In summary…very happy I got out of bed this morning and braved the conditions. Turned out to be not nearly as bad as the media made it out to be. I came away with a handful of points, and a handful of £ for my troubles, and I thoroughly enjoyed the race. It was fast (over 27mph average), flat (total elevation of 3 and a half feet) and very windy, just my kind of race.

Finally I wanted to say thank you to the race organisers for making the best out of a soggy, miserable day. Thanks to the marshals for keeping us safe on the road. And thanks to the staff back at HQ for the warm coffee and lovely cake.

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Posted in Blogs

Cold Dark North Road Race at Oakenclough

Words by John MacKellar.

No need for alarms this morning, it was the sound of rain on car rooftops that woke me up at 6am. It was thick, heavy rain and each drop made a big splash as it hit the ground. Not long after and I was on my way to Oakenclough for the Cold Dark North Road Race. Oakenclough is a great course and part of me was looking forward to racing on it. The other part was unsure as to how I would cope in my first race with the 2nd cat riders of the season on a tough course. Strangely though, I was looking forward to racing in the rain.

At sign on, the weather remained as wet as first thing this morning, but the volunteers and organisers at Race HQ looked cheery despite the weather. On the drive, I’d pretty much decided what I was going to wear. I kept it simple, baselayer, arm-warmers, shorts and velotoze shoe covers. Legs out, as it was going to be hard. As I was putting my kit on, I saw team mate, Si Deplitch, head to sign on. There should have been four from Team Chronomaster at the race, but illness and rain had reduced us to two. 

Looking around at the rider briefing, the weather had also put a lot of the field off. There was still plenty of strong competition. They told us that we would in fact be doing 4.5 laps, not 5.5,  so about 80km. Team Crimson with 3 riders and Adam Hartley, winner of Bole Hill last week, were all present.

We set out from HQ and riders were attacking the flag as soon as it dropped. The first 4 or 5 km climbed up steadily and I wanted to position myself near the front because the race was clearly going to break up on the climb. Then there’s a zig-zag left-right and this had us slowing down on the way in and riders applying pressure on the way out. Now we were heading towards the top of the course, where the start finish was situated. 1 km from the top of the course there’s a left hander; the guys on the front went charging in, coming out of this corner I was too far back, maybe 30 riders down and working hard to make up ground. I could see Si a few wheels in front, as we were approaching the very steep kicker up to the finish line. The pace was high and this was a key moment in the race.

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The race strung out as it hits the steepest part of the course on lap 1.

On the steepest part of the climb I passed Si and my skinny frame was helping me to put pressure the others in my group. As I came over the start/finish line, I could see the head of the race and that there was a gap going. There were 3 riders in between. I sprinted hard over the top of the climb and on to the descent, still pedalling at 300w. I got on to that trio of  riders’ wheels as we headed on to the fastest part of the descent, with the front group just in sight.

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Descending was exciting in the northern weather. 

There was a short climb that broke up that descending group, and the head of the race had disappeared up the road, but I also saw that Si had made it into our 2nd group. We dropped down to the bottom of the course and were heading on to the 2nd lap when I heard one lad saying “take it steady, roll through easier, we’re not racing for anything. It’s just a training ride”. It was like he’d flicked a switch, I was still racing! The group in front of us was getting smaller every lap, riders that couldn’t handle the pace and others that didn’t want to stay in the soaking rain. So there was every chance that anyone who kept going could pick up points. But this comment had struck a nerve; I noted that it had come from someone who looked like they might struggle on the climbs, and it ensured that I would push extra hard as we went over the top of the climb.

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And that was what happened each lap, along with 2 or 3 strong looking riders  we applied a lot of pressure as we went over the summit and had the advantage of descending with much less spray in our faces, thus getting rid of riders each lap. Every so often we would catch a glimpse of a rider ahead, it give us a point to focus on and we chased them down. Some of them jumped in our group, others headed for an early shower.

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The steep climb on the penultimate lap. The composition of our group much changed by this climb; riders from in front absorbed and others ejected out the back.

At some point, Si had disappeared from my group so I was on my own. My friend on the training ride too. Before we knew it, we took the bell lap. I asked how many riders were in front. Ears too full of water to hear the reply. One more lap, one more effort up the climb. As we got to the bottom of the course, some wanted to try to save energy for the final kick and were sitting on. So the inevitable attacks came, I must have jumped on to 3 of these. It was the 4th that stuck and Sam Pugh (Salt Ayre Cog Set) rode away 2km from the finish.

I knew that our group of 7 would hit the climb together and I wanted to try and get as much of a head start on any sprinting for the line. I was 2nd or 3rd wheel as we hit the steepest section, then the sprinting began. Or everyone else began. My legs protested, the harder I tried the more they protested, and the other 6 riders all managed to pass me. In the end, I finished 18th and Si finished 20th. There weren’t many people at the finish, everyone here had raced hard and braved the wet conditions and not packed in. Each rider that came over the line receiving approval for just finishing.

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A couple of thank you’s. Firstly to the marshals that stood out on the course in rain, second to Ellen Isherwood for coming out and taking pics, I didn’t see you at all on the course. Thirdly to Cold Dark North for organising an event on a great course. Without local organisers we have to head further away in search of races, but why when all the good riding is here on our door step in the North.

Well done to race winner Rob Rogers (Team PB Performance).

You can check the race out here https://www.strava.com/activities/1736472095

Posted in Blogs

The Bole Hill Road Race

by the Racing Chance Foundation. Words by John MacKellar.

I’d had this race marked on my calendar for quite a while. After moving back from Barcelona at the end of June, this was only my third road race of the year and the first one in the hills so I wanted to make it count. I wanted hills but maybe I had underestimated how hilly this course was.

The Bole Hill Road Race takes place on a circuit near Dove Holes in the Peak District and as the name and location both suggested there were guaranteed to be hills. The course packs in 270m (880ft) of climbing in to a12.2km (7.5 mile) lap. There were two main climbs on the course, the second climb, steepest at the bottom before flattening out on to a drag over the finish line then continuing on up. We were doing 6 laps that equated to around 2 hours of racing.

In attendance were Jon (Bambam), and Jon Fowles was racing in the E12 event. The weather was somewhere between mist and ultra-fine rain that stuck to lenses in ultra droplets. In the middle of the Peak District, the mist certainly added to the atmosphere.

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Dropping down through the mist

We rolled out and the flag dropped as we started the first climb. On the open drag across the top of the course, as we went past Buxton Water, the first attack came and had us all lined out. But that was reigned in and resumed at a more sustainable pace. No fewer than 2km further on we hit the second climb, some of the stronger lads pushed the pace and the bunch was exploding.

We were on the steepest part of the climb and I found myself half way between the frontrunners and groups that were getting distanced. I was unsure whether this was another early attack that would get neutralised or if this was the selection. I decided not to risk being left on the wrong side of a split and I chased. Hard. It felt like too hard for this early in the race, I was within touching distance as we went over the finish line and it seemed like the riders ahead were easing up. It spurred me on. I latched on just as we went over the top of the climb. In this group were maybe 15 others. I didn’t look round to see where the rest of the race was, the pace was still sky high.

In our much reduced front group I could see that there were maybe 4 or 5 lads looking strong and rolling through. Every time we hit a climb, Jacques Coates (Team OnForm)  looked dangerous and we struggled to contain him. Responding to this tempo on the climbs resulted in the bunch reducing in size with each ascension. I tried my best to anticipate these accelerations and started to feel OK in this group.

As we came up towards the finish line for the 3rd time, 50 minutes in, another attack 

was putting a lot of pressure on our group. Head down and pedalling hard, it was too late when I realised I’d been on the wrong wheel. A gap had emerged and riders were pulling away from us. Matt Kelly (Hale Vélo) , was as determined as I was not be distanced. On the rivet, we chased for 10 minutes getting very close but not quite latching on as we started to descend.

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Only two of us would rejoin the front group.

Suddenly my chase companion came through too hard and opened up a gap, I was on the limit already and couldn’t catch the front group alone. Miraculously, his place slowed just enough for me to jump onto his wheel and after pedalling through every bend on the descent we got back on to a further reduced group.

At this point, legs were clearly getting tired and the pace dropped off. Slightly.  This was probably the first point in the race that I had chance to look around. There were 10 of us left and I couldn’t see any other chasing groups behind us.

More strong attacks came but there were brought back, but more slowly as the race went on. Fatigue was setting in.

By the final lap, our group was down to 8. The attacking resumed and Si Bridge (Manchester BC) looked strong in an early move but nobody was willing to let anyone slip away at this stage. So it would come down to the final climb. As we approached the descent to the foot of the steep climb, I was 3rd wheel and then Jacques moved up. 

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At the foot of the climb everyone bunched up, waiting for someone to launch their dash for the finish line. After 1500m of climbing, the pace up this final climb was the highest it had  been. Gaps emerged. My legs were screaming. I rolled over the line in 8th, and other riders started coming in ones and twos. Bambam rolled inside the top 15 and at the front of his group. 

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Bambam leading the chasers up the steep climb.

Well done to Tom Knight (TBW Bottechia) on taking the win.

A huge thank you to Fred and Heather Bamforth and The Racing Chance foundation for organising two races simultaneously. Everything went very smoothly on the day and we love racing on these very testing courses.

Also thanks to Ellen Isherwood for the excellent photos.

Link to the race on Strava, check out the course https://www.strava.com/activities/1719989393

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Rock to Roll cycles Castle Carrock Road Race 8th July

by Stephen Feeney

A late decision by the organising team meant this race, not originally scheduled to take place this year, was back on the calendar. However, rather than being an early season event like last year, the 2018 edition would be a mid summer event.

And what a difference that made!

Last year we experienced non stop heavy rain, freezing temperatures and flooded roads with the added bonus of the standing water being generously diluted by animal excrement. This lead to several riders, including me, contracting conjunctivitis!

This year the race had been preceded by weeks of scorching temperatures and a complete lack of precipitation.

The day had started with some excitement and debate regarding the suitability, or otherwise, of my fork mounted roof rack fittings to carry bikes with carbon drop outs. The conclusion being of some concern but, given the fact that I’d been using them all year without any problems, we decided to keep the faith although this did result in a somewhat uncharacteristic ‘driving Miss Daisy’ style journey. No doubt very pleasant for my passengers Craig and Simon.

Although we were racing on the same circuit as last year, as the race got underway, largely thanks to the marked difference in conditions, I barely recognised the roads and countryside! The tough draggy section I remembered from last was decidedly less challenging in the sunshine and warmth.

With the course being essentially flat, it wasn’t really ideal for Craig. I also prefer a few lumps to make things a bit tougher.

Craig, Simon and I all tried our luck with some early attacks, with varying degrees of success. My attempts, through the finish line on laps 2 and 3, where Si had tried to join me, were quickly neutralised. Craig had escaped and managed to stay clear for a few miles but with an eager bunch keeping the pressure on, he was always going to struggle to keep clear especially by himself!

The next few laps of the 7 lap race saw little action from the Chronomaster boys. I’d decided to wait until the last lap to see whether a tired bunch would be easier to escape. Craig joined me for a few laps loitering around the back of the bunch.

As the last lap approached I started thinking about a plan of attack. Craig was clearly thinking along the same lines and attacked with around a lap and 2miles to go. He was joined by Si in a bunch of 5 and the group quickly got a decent gap and looked like they might stay clear.

I should point out at this time that 2 lads had broken clear after a couple of laps and were doing a great ride to stay away from the bunch and various chase groups.

Unfortunately for Si and Craig, the bunch weren’t quite ready to sit back yet and with a few miles to go their break was reeled in leaving the 2 early escapees as the only riders up the road.

Si slotted in at the front of the group setting himself up for the likely bunch sprint for 3rd. I decided to try my hand in the sprint also and picked the wheel of a rider, that I’d noticed to be strong during the race, to follow.

With around a mile and a half to go I was in about 15th position on the last time up the short, steep climb that was the main challenge on the circuit. I held this position, knowing it was perhaps a little too far back for taking part in a bunch sprint, up until around 500 meters to go when suddenly a lull in the pace meant I moved up to around 5th or 6th position in the bunch, just off Si’s right shoulder.

A rider from GS Metro started his sprint up the inside and, to avoid being swamped by the bunch, I decided I’d better start my sprint too!

Somehow I managed to sprint strongly to the line and even pass our own Peter Sagan (Si) to take the bunch sprint for 3rd, which I was really pleased about!

Si was 4th so it had been a fine sprinting display by the team!

Craig finished further back in the main bunch.

I’d like to Thank Rock to Roll cycles for their continued sterling work in race organisation and our fantastic sponsors!

Posted in Blogs

North Wales round 2- Trawsfynydd Lake

by Jonathan Fowles

Round 2 of the North Wales Road Race took place on Sunday on the stunning Welsh terrain surrounding . The course consisted of three 20 mile laps, with a significant climbing section followed by a long descent, then a sharp rise before a draggy ascent to the finish line (possibly one of the best courses I’ve ridden).

We set off in what was possibly the shortest neutralised section I’ve ever known. The flag dropped (almost immediately after leaving HQ), and as ever the attacks came. It was only a short distance to the start of the climb, so I sat tight.

The pace ramped up significantly on the climb; you could see the pain in the faces of riders as they pushed to remain in contact with the bunch. I made my way up to the front, and had a go at setting a hard steady pace on the first climbing section. It was a tricky course, because after every climbing section there was a short fast descent before starting the next climb. This meant that any gaps opened on the ascent were often closed again before the next climb.

Nearing the top of the climb for the first time, a group of 4 riders had managed to break clear. Over the crest of a small lump I put in an attack and made it over to these riders shortly before the long descent. It all came back together on the descent, and there were some pretty exciting moments avoiding collisions with sheep (apparently some riders have a sixth sense for calling “SHEEP” when one is about to massacre a peleton).

On the flat section before the climb, another group of 5 or so riders managed to break clear. I attacked and found myself in no mans land between them and the peleton…. and then the small break decided to all crash into each other (on a straight, flat bit of road!!!!). I had to avoid a pile of bikes and riders by squeezing between a caravan and a stopped NEG motorbike. I was slightly unsure what to do after I was clear, and just carried on riding, but soon realised I was going to get caught by a group who had also managed to negotiate the crash.

On the climb for the second time, I made an effort to ramp up the pace with a few other riders. Not attacking, but just keeping a hard consistent pace. It worked, and a group of us managed to get away. We collected a few additional riders who had escaped earlier on, and together our group of 10 or so worked together to try and maximise our gap.

Another group caught us on the flat section before the final climb. Riders instantly started sitting on the back, and the disruption allowed two riders to chip off the front. We hit the climb, and the disruption continued with riders attacking from this group. I sat on wheels and made my way to the lead group of these. The pace was hard enough to shell off most of the break, and we were left with about 8 riders chasing the 2 up the road. Astonishingly they had gained a minute on us by the top of the climb (and we weren’t hanging about).

Nobody was keen on setting a consistent pace on the descending section, and the disruption allowed another 3 riders to chip off the front. I was getting frustrated; if only we worked together we could catch the front group and contest the win! However, it soon became clear that we were racing for some minor positions.

We hit the last sharp rise, and it was full gas. My legs were cramping but I pushed as hard as I could to get over the rise, knowing I could rest a little on the final drop before the finish. I thought I’d positioned myself well on the second wheel with 400m to go to the line, but 5 riders charged past and I didn’t have any kick left to get on the back of this train. I finished in 10th place. Frustrating.

Overall it was an amazing race on a stunning circuit, and my legs felt good (mostly). I’m now placed 4th overall in the series, so bring on the final round!!

Many thanks to the organisers for putting on this series of excellent races and thanks again to our amazing sponsors.

Posted in Blogs